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Artist: Bisschop, Cornelis 1 of 1
 
Bathsheba, c. early 1660s

Cornelis Bisschop
Dutch, 1630-1674
Oil on panel
15-1/2 x 13-1/4 in. (39.4 x 33.7 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1969.45.P
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

These paintings represent two different imaginings of the Old Testament story of David and Bathsheba. King David, looking out of his window, saw the beautiful Bathsheba washing herself and desired her. Though she was already married to Uriah, a soldier in his army, David sent a letter to her and she came to him, eventually becoming his wife and bearing a child named Solomon, who succeeded David on the throne.

The story of David and Bathsheba was a popular theme in seventeenth-century Dutch art, inspiring a range of interpretations that explored its erotic and moral aspects. Cornelius Bisschop’s painting collapses the narrative, showing David observing the nude Bathsheba at her fountain, though she already reads his love letter. Steen depicts Bathsheba receiving the letter in her home. The domestic setting emphasizes her status as a married woman, and highlights the unsteady moral grounds of the narrative. In both cases the figure of David, watching Bathsheba from his tower, reminds viewers of their own voyeuristic gaze.

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Artist: Bisschop, Cornelis 1 of 1